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“Bromances” and stress

What does the behavior of rats suggest about how “bromances” might help men under stress?

Close relationships provide social support that can help relieve stress. One type we don’t know much about is “bromances”—close friendships between two men—but how these help or hurt stress levels isn’t clear.

It’s hard to do scientific research on this topic with humans because it would involve intentionally stressing people out to see how they respond. Who would volunteer for that?! So instead, scientists who study human social behavior use rats, which have social behavior very similar to that of humans. To learn more about the impact of bromances on stress, they observed male rat “friendships” under stressful situations. Here’s what they found.

Under mildly stressful situations, male rats became more social and cooperative with other male rats, compared to when they weren’t stressed. The rats’ oxytocin levels increased. They touched and snuggled other male rats more. Under severely stressful situations though, the male rats’ behavior changed. They were no longer cooperative and became withdrawn, isolated, and aggressive.

Of course, people aren’t rats, and one research study is never a good foundation for reliable conclusions, often raising more questions than it answers. However, it can give us “food for thought.” One idea from this study is that bromances seem beneficial, depending on stress level. Your friendships with other guys might help keep mild stress at bay. So spending time with your fellow men just might help you feel calmer.

Yet in severely stressful situations, bromances didn’t serve the same purpose. The rats became disconnected and hostile. Could the same be true for male humans? We can’t say for sure, but men exposed to severely stressful situations that result in PTSD sometimes have similar reactions.

Looking for ways to beef up your own stress-management skills? Check out HPRC’s Stress Management Strategies section. Concerned about your friend’s or spouse’s reaction to stress? Our Post-Deployment section has some resources to help.  

The “I” in team

What strengthens teams? What breaks them down? Find out how your mood and drive to dominate impacts your team’s stability and performance.

Your team wins when you have a good attitude, manage your emotions, and care about your teammates. But your team can break down, especially when members let their talents or controlling ways interfere with reaching team goals.

What individual traits make a team stronger? Managing your emotions can make you a better teammate, unite your group, and help your team thrive. People who deal with their emotions well are often good “team players” because they tend to listen openly to other points of view. And they’re less likely to feel threatened when wrong.

With emotions in check, you’re more likely to be cooperative and open to resolving conflict, instead of avoiding it. Just one team member with a negative outlook can affect the whole team, while those with a “can do” attitude can improve atmosphere and team performance.

What individual traits break down a team? Teammates rely on each other for the team’s overall success, but those with too much talent can break down a team. Teams don’t function well when talent—from one or a select few—dominates the group.

That’s why cohesiveness is essential to solid teamwork. If individuals try to dominate, unity breaks down and can cause arguments over authority. Teams become weaker when members are more concerned with advancing themselves and undermining their teammates, interfering with reaching the common goal.

How do your traits impact your unit? How do they affect your family? Check out HPRC’s Mental Resilience and Family Resilience sections and learn how to become a more effective team member—at work and home. 

Moving in together? Talk finances.

It’s an exciting time when you’re ready to combine households with your significant other. Should you combine finances too? Learn how to start the “money talk.”

Moving in with your significant other is a big step in your relationship—and that often means combining finances. Take some time to explore your comfort level in the relationship and decide what’s best for you.

Sometimes couples have a hard time talking about money, especially if you approach finances differently. What if you’re thrifty, but your partner lives paycheck to paycheck? Or your significant other made some smart investments over the years, while school or job changes kept you from doing the same? Here are some tips to start the “money talk.Read on...

Celebrate Mother’s Day

Filed under: Family, Relationships
Celebrate Mother’s Day wherever you’re serving—at home or abroad.

Mother’s Day is set aside to honor mothers, but for service members who can’t celebrate with their moms or who can’t take time to celebrate being a mom, it can be hard. But still do your best to take time and recognize the special moms in your life.

  • Show your appreciation with a handwritten note or ecard. If you’re feeling creative, make a card from scratch—just like you did as a kid—and drop it in the mail.
  • Enjoy a physical activity together. Go walking, running, biking, hiking, or do yoga. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, together or apart, can help you both enjoy Mother’s Day in the future too.
  • Nourish your mom with healthy treats or a homemade meal. And consider inviting a mom who doesn’t have family nearby. Good food and conversation can make her day special too.

If you can’t be with your mom, then schedule a time to talk or video chat. Let her know how much you cherish your relationship. And ask any questions you might have wondered about, such as:

  • How are we alike or different?
  • What did you really think when I joined the military (or married someone in the military)?
  • Is it easier being a mother now that your kids are grown?
  • What do you hope the next few years will bring for our family?

If you’re feeling some sadness or anxiety, make a point to manage your stress. “Perfect” moms and/or children could evoke stress, even if you love them dearly. Consider mindfulness or other ways to cope, and make the best of this day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all military moms—service members, spouses, and mothers of service members!

Add years to your life with strong relationships

Good friends and family do more than make life worth living. These relationships also might help you live longer!

People with good friendships and strong family relationships are likely to live longer than those without social ties. This is true regardless of gender, age, or how healthy you are. Strong relationships matter for your health, just as much as losing weight, getting active, and stopping smoking. To increase your chances of living longer, strengthen your social relationships. How? A good conversation with a friend, taking your mom out to lunch, or getting involved in your community are all ways to improve your connections with those around you. Doing so also can lessen feelings of loneliness and improve your health in the long run. The reverse is also true: People who don’t feel supported by those around them report more health problems. People with weak relationships are at risk for earlier death.

Take an inventory of all of your relationships and consider where improvements can be made. Are you putting in the effort needed to keep these ties strong? Doing so will not only enhance your connections to those around you, it also has the potential to add years to your life. 

How breaking up can be good for you

To help you get over a breakup, try reflecting on the positive aspects of the split and then writing about it.

The end of a relationship might bring feelings of sadness and stress. But breaking up can be good for you when separating from a relationship leads to self-growth. How can you make this happen? To get there, reflect on the benefits of breaking up and write them down. What can you do now that you weren’t able to do before?

Writing out what led to the break-up, how the breakup happened, and what happened after the break-up can reduce your negative thoughts about the split. Venting to a friend definitely has its place, but to capitalize on the split, focus on what is (or was) going on for you during this time by writing about it. This can help you examine any red flags you might have overlooked or any patterns that you might have developed in how you select partners. Consider how you contributed to the relationship not working and what you might be able to do differently in the future. This self-reflection can lead to powerful conclusions.

You probably know people who seem to choose the same kind of person or relationship every time, and it ends up not working out in the end or not being good for them. Don’t be one of them! By taking some time to write down and reflect on your last relationship, you might be saving yourself from future angst. 

Kindness always wins

Supporting others with a thoughtful word or act has numerous benefits. Learn how to create “win-wins” in your relationships.

A little kindness goes a long way. Thoughtfully supporting others actually improves your chances for a long life too. There are lots of ways to show helpfulness to neighbors, friends, or relatives such as providing transportation, running errands, or helping with childcare. Everyone benefits from giving and receiving support, and it doesn’t always have to be a deed or gesture.

Providing emotional support to somebody is one of the best gifts you can give. Share your thoughts and feelings, respond to each other’s needs, and listen attentively. Offer advice when asked. Not sure what to say? Sometimes your presence alone can bring comfort to someone who needs it. In fact, a caring gesture often encourages its recipient to return the kindness—so it becomes a “win-win.” Be nice, help others, and develop long-lasting relationships.

Valentine’s Day rewards

“Candy is dandy, but...” try these ways to reward your loved one even more this Valentine’s Day.

No doubt about it: Being rewarded is a great way to make someone happy. When you were a kid, you loved getting a reward for doing something good, right? It still works when you become an adult, but the reward—and what you did to earn it—is often more subtle. Rewarding your significant other for his or her daily acts of love and care is a sure way to bring you closer.

So this year, in addition to giving the usual flowers or chocolates or whatever you do for each other, try these two simple acts: Do or say something loving to your partner, and tell them you’re happy to be in a relationship with them.

For more information on supporting your relationship with your partner, visit HPRC’s Relationship Enhancement page.

First comes love, then comes remarriage

Remarriage is an exciting time that brings lots of changes. Learn some tips to help ease this transition.

Getting married again is a time of new beginnings. It’s often a time of challenges and changes too. While you’re celebrating your marriage and deciding what kind of stepparent you’ll be (if your partner has children), there are a few things you can do to stay happy:

  • Maintain your identity as an individual—separate from your spouse. This will help you weather challenges with confidence. But strike a balance with staying close to your spouse too.
  • Focus on each other. Sharing intimacy with your spouse includes a healthy sex life too. This helps you two connect regularly.
  • Stay flexible. Often remarriage means juggling new responsibilities, living in a new place, or becoming a stepparent. Bending with whatever life throws at you means you’re less likely to break or falter.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Laughing at yourself or the situations you find yourself in can help you keep perspective.
  • Don’t take the place of a biological parent if you’re becoming a stepparent. Foster your own relationship with your stepchild and follow your partner’s lead.
  • Remember how you felt when you fell in love. Keep those memories alive—they’ll help get you through tougher times.  

A new year’s resolution for your relationships

Jump-start the new year! Resolve to improve your personal relationships in 2016.

Happy New Year! As you plan exciting changes in 2016, give some thought to your personal relationships:

  • What makes you happy?
  • Who can you count on if you have a serious problem?
  • Who is your best friend?
  • How close are you to family and friends outside of your unit?
  • How much closeness do you need/want?

Can’t answer some of these questions? Then think about how to make a change this year. Show loved ones that you care about them. Establish close bonds with those you can trust. Let others know they can rely on you. Resolve to focus on developing deeper relationships with those around you so that your safety net is set for 2017.

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